One of the ways BDSM is often criticized by feminists is that the typical submissive woman/dominant man couple often shown in pornography reinforces the patriarchal culture. There's a bit of truth to that. In most mainstream porn, the woman tends to be submissive and the man dominant.

Yet there is another, equally strong stream of images of women in kink: the Dominatrix. This leather-clad figure holding a whip or riding crop often appears with men worshiping her and kissing her boots; the total opposite of the submissive: kneeling, passive, and waiting for her Master's call.

Except, the images linked to both these types of roles, especially in popular culture and porn, are tied to the same sexist attitude toward women. When the time comes for women of all roles and orientations to find play, sex, or relationships, we are all still victims of sexism, although it may appear in different forms.

Even as a dominant woman, getting men begging to lick the ground you walk on isn't all "girl power" or empowering. Sometimes, it's just the same old sexist stuff, no matter our D/s orientation.

Dominant Women Are Still Seen as Sex Dispensers

On kink-related sites like Fetlife, some people often approach women as if they are sex dispensers. They think "Ooh, this woman in on a sex site. She must want sex!" We are constantly propositioned, without the person even trying to get to know us.

Dominant women receive plenty of offers. They're just couched in a different language. Instead of "Hey slut, I love to spank and fuck little submissives like you," they get an overly polite, supplicating message:

My Lady,

I thought I would approach Your Greatness because You are beautiful and i wish to serve You. I enjoy pegging, licking boots, chastity, and spankings.

I hope that Your Magnificence will consider my humble supplication for her attention.
Random Sub Person

OK, I made that message up, but it's pretty much the tone and language of a lot of messages dominant women receive every day. In tone, they are definitely different; but in content, they are exactly the same.

In a roundabout way, they say "Please cater to my fetishes" and "You are not a person to me; just a fantasy figure that exists to serve my sexual needs." They often ignore stated preferences in dominant women's profiles and claim to want to do this or that, without even checking if the woman is interested in these things. Because obviously, she must cater to him. The fact that she'd actually be the dominant partner doesn't seem relevant.

Dominant Women Are Interchangeable

If you read message boards dedicated to female domination, you will find a common complaint: "There are so many male subs and not enough dominant women!"

I'll let you guess who tends to write these complaints. That's right ... men.

Mostly, they're men who can't seem to find a dominant woman to have sex with. They complain that dominant women go for guys who aren't as submissive as they are. They claim high and loud that they would be the "perfect submissive;" that they would do absolutely everything to make dominant women happy.

Except, it's not about a woman in particular. It's about all the dominant women - as in interchangeable bodies that fill the fantasy of "dominant woman." Dominant women get objectified, because all women get objectified. She still only exists as an object, a thing that serves a purpose (fulfill the person's kink). She is not seen as a person with her own interests, goals, or tastes.

That kind of thing also happens at parties, not only online. Male submissive newcomers often come to kink parties hoping to just kneel at the feet of some (read any) dominant woman, who will then proceed to a scene with him. To them, a kink event is basically a porn movie they get to walk into.

Dominant Women Should Date Them Because They're Submissive

Which leads me to another way dominant women face sexism while looking for partners: the Nice Submissive syndrome.

These people have adapted the "nice guy" discourse from a submissive point of view. (Here's an excellent primer for the Nice Guy syndrome if you need a refresher.) They believe dominant women owe them scenes and attention simply because they approached them offering their absolute and undying submission.

Just like nice guys who believe they are better than the jerks other girls date, these submissive men proclaim that their submissiveness is so much more submissive than those other, not-really-submissive guys.

When a dominant woman discusses her difficulties finding someone to date, here he is, claiming that he would be so much better at catering to her every need (and, actually, he really expects her to cater to his every need).

We Cannot Escape Sexism

If the experience of my dominant friends is any indication, dominant women have to live in a world where men see them as interchangeable sex dispensers.

Dominant women are extremely fetishized; in some ways, more so than submissive ones. Their power is taken out of their actual person, is dressed up in black leather boots and corsets, and is packaged for men's consumption. When the time comes for dominant women to find real, satisfying relationships, they have to fight stereotypes that are often much more restrictive than those surrounding female submission. Sadly, being a sexually dominant woman doesn't free you from sexism.